• A couple of weeks ago Microsoft and Toyota announced that they’ve come together to build a global platform to deliver Toyota’s next-generation in-car telecommunications and information technologies using the Windows Azure platform.
The two companies will invest 1 billion yen ($12m) in Toyota Media Service Co (TMC) to develop and deploy telematics applications, starting with TMC’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012. TMC’s goal is to establish a global cloud platform by 2015 to provide advanced telematics services to Toyota automotive customers around the world.
TMC is already conducting trials in Japan of its Toyota Smart Center pilot program, which plans to link people, cars and homes to enable the integrated control of energy use. TMC believes that, as electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles become more popular, such systems will rely more on telematics services for achieving efficient energy management.
• Switzerland-based air transport IT specialist, SITA, has announced that it is building an air transport industry (ATI) cloud. The company is already investing in the programme with infrastructure, platform, desktop and software-as-a-service offerings due to go live from June.
According to SITA, the air transport industry is unique in that it integrates lots of different players in the air transport eco-system, including airlines, airports and manufacturers, who all need to co-operate and share applications. They also operate within a set of national, regional and global regulations and standards, which needs a consistent approach between the stakeholders and across IT services.
The idea is to offer end-to-end air transport business and IT solutions on demand, delivered through six large regional virtual data centres across five continents, as well as virtual data centres based at large airports. The ATI Cloud will enable ATI end-users to get access to a large catalogue of applications and will provide a platform for independent software vendors (ISVs) and application service providers to distribute their solutions.
The Microsoft/Toyota deal is interesting because while it’s ostensibly about a telematics platform, the companies clearly see electric vehicles as becoming a central part of an energy-managed home. It’s some way in the future yet - it needs effective smart grids in place and the adoption of electric vehicles - but it seems almost inevitable.
The move makes a lot of sense for Microsoft as it gives the company another potential way in to the home energy management market, alongside its Hohm solution. And home energy management represents a huge IT opportunity.
The SITA ATI cloud has a more conventional background, bringing together a broad, but interlinked, eco-system within the air transport sector. Whilst it doesn’t have the direct green IT implications of the Microsoft/Toyota deal, such an integrated industry solution clearly has the potential to create cost and efficiency savings from economies of scale, with sustainable benefits.
It also highlights the tendency towards industry-based cloud solutions, bringing together companies up and down (and across) the supply chain.